Sunday ∗ 23 Sep 2012

independence is a dangerous thing

“Freedom is always the freedom of the one who thinks differently.” — Rosa Luxemburg.

it seems like the right time to talk about libel, coming from me, ehem, now close to the end of the year, and having begun 2012 with maria ressa threatening me with it over on twitter, and then refusing to continue talking about it after a few dared called her out on it. you know of course that at any time that i even mention ressa or rappler in this space, there will be a fantastic troll comment that will go from insulting me about my looks to preconceived notions about my lovelife. here you realize that there is nothing more mature than having your own special person trolling anyone who dares comment against you online.

ah, the luxuries i don’t have.

but i digress, or sort of. because in fact there is nothing that brings back memories of being silenced via a libel threat, than the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012  with, hold your breath for it! the libel clause. which falls back on libel as defined by the civil code, which the United Nations has said violates the right to freedom of expression.

right here is why this, to me, is the funniest thing too: we are nothing but a bunch of people pretending we are the social media capital of the world, where we wrongly celebrate crowdsourcing and new media that’s actually old, where we give each other awards and talk to each other about the good that we do online. and then you have a government who cannot but insist that the internet is a scary place, that it is something to fear, because you know, words can hurt.

words can hurt. 

really? seriously? who exactly is hurt by words? you do not know cyberbullying until you get your own trolls, and we must begin by asking the question: what is bullying exactly? where is that line drawn between being critiqued and being bullied? what if you have a Senator like Tito Sotto who insists he didn’t plagiarize, but who we all insist is a plagiarist? certainly that is defamation from his perspective, and certainly when we hashtag #sottoduwag he can take offense and sue all of us who tweet or re-tweet with it?

and certainly when the media says that government’s Secretary Lacierda blames people for not following DOST on twitter to keep posted on weather updates, and the government site comes out with transcript of the press conference where Lacierda didn’t come out and say this outright and instead told reporters:

“As far as we know, DOST has been giving its information to the public—through Twitter, through NDRRMC, and through [the] radio media stations that are following them.”

and says:

<…> as far as we are concerned, the timeline of DOST, PAGASA, NDRRMC would prove that the public was informed and updated through our media partners and also through Twitter.

and when a reporter asked about brownouts and ergo the lack of twitter access he says:

Ako rin brownout din area ko—9:13. Pero I got Twitter. I got Twitter.

so the media reads this as Secretary Lacierda blaming those of us who aren’t on twitter or not following DOST to keep posted. the media reads what Lacierda said and gives us the headline: “Stranded? Get twitter account, says Lacierda.”

is that a misreading at all? it is certainly an inference, one that is about assessing the information one is given, and coming up with a reading of it. this is opinion, it is critical opinion. it is one that we welcome in a democracy, and certainly there is no other way to read what Lacierda says. ah, but according to government we are wrong in that reading.

wrong info is equal to lying about what Lacierda said, yes? but at what point do these readings-deemed-wrong become about being sued for some cybercrime or other? after all government can take offense at anything, onion-skinned as our officials are and unable to engage in discussion, and admit at any given point that they have messed up. their tendency is to defend themselves no matter that criticism only happens after its three-monstered-mouth spouts wrong or stupid (take your pick). but they can say we are the liars because we do “sweeping pontifications” and “generalizations” based on what they say and do. 

it becomes a discussion about opinion and criticism versus, oh i don’t know, a sensitive and paranoid, utterly unable to be self-reflexive, government. it becomes dangerous for those who dare think differently from the rest of the social media bandwagon, for those who are un-affiliated and think independently. libel shouldn’t scare rappler or tonyo cruz, because government after all looks kindly upon these souls who also help out — wittingly or unwittingly — government’s various calls for, i don’t know, it’s more fun in the philippines and hashtag discussions. and when you think anyone at all should be thankful that you’re engaging in their discussions? how’s that for some full-of-yourself action?

ah, but there is no difference. if you are celebratory of social media and social good, if you cannot see how this is clique-formation like no other, the kind that will refuse to question itself because you get together and think it a tweet up, and you unsurprisingly have the same opinions. well, government loves you, donchaworry. you after all provide the most useful distractions from real life, talking as you do about the power of social media. you are the government’s best press release, whether you like it or not.

now those who are independent and online. well, good luck na lang sa’tin. mala-libel at mala-libel tayo. matira matibay.

NOTE: click here for the hashtag discussion, sept 17 2012.

Posted in: bayan, gobyerno, komentaryo

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